Syrian stranded at Malaysian airport for a month

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A Syrian man who’s been living in a Malaysian airport for more than a month told Sky News he fears he could be stranded there for years.

Hassan al Kontar, 36, says he risks being arrested by Syrian authorities if he returns home after refusing to do military service.

For the past 37 days he has been stuck in Kuala Lumpur airport, living on airline food and sleeping in the terminal.

“I don’t know how long I will be here. I know of some Syrian people who were stuck in the airport for a year,” he explained.

“For the first seven days I was trying to clean myself somehow using the toilet facilities.

“It’s so small and cold.

“I can’t take a shower, I can’t dry my clothes if I’m going to wash them because it is an airport and there is no privacy.”

Speaking to Sky News from the transit area, he said the problem began in February when he was unexpectedly turned away from a flight from Malaysia to Ecuador, despite not needing a visa to travel.

He then tried to go to Cambodia but access was also denied.

He first arrived in Malaysia in January 2017, overstaying his initial three-month visa, after being deported from the United Arab Emirates.

In UAE, he had been working in marketing and energy until the start of the Syrian war in 2011.

From that point, he claims, as for many of his countrymen, his fortunes changed.

“Since 2011, no-one wants us,” he said. “We are rejected, lonely, hated.

“People look at us now as terrorists.”

Stranded and with little money, he decided to try to get help by publishing online video diaries from the airport.

He has also spoken to UNHCR, who confirmed in a statement it had contacted Malaysian authorities over the case.

Phil Robertson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called for the situation to be quickly resolved.

He said: “Malaysia needs to demonstrate compassion and provide humanitarian assistance to Hassan al Kontar, and permit the UNHCR to have full access to him.

“The government should ensure UNHCR is able to speedily and effectively interview him and adjudicate his claim for asylum.

“If he’s found to be a refugee, it’s urgent that Malaysia permit him to seek third country resettlement without hindrance.”

As yet, no timeframe has been given.

So for now, Mr Kontar catches glimpses of home on airport TVs; images from the suspected chemical weapons attack on Douma and discussions of the possibility of fresh airstrikes.

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Tom Hanks in the 2004 film The Terminal. Pic: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock Syrian stranded at Malaysian airport for a month Syrian stranded at Malaysian airport for a month skynews tom hanks the terminal 4280380
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Tom Hanks played a man stuck in an airport in fictional film The Terminal. Pic: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock

He has little hope further bombing would improve the lives of Syrian people or change the actions of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

“How many messages did they send before?” he asked. “Did they stop al Assad doing whatever he wants?

“He’s not going to pay attention. He’s winning, he’s gaining ground. No one is hearing us.

“No one is hearing the kids who are dying in Douma because of the chemical attack, they are just looking how to get profit from it.

“They are trading in our blood, all of them.”



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